Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor is proposing major amendments to the Employment Services Act to strengthen migrant workers’ safety and rights – and stop inappropriate practices by employers and employment agents.

The ministry is gauging public opinions till the end of October, and hopes that amendments can be processed by the Legislative Yuan early next year, the Taiwan Times reported.

Among the changes being drafted, employers or employment agents would be strictly forbidden from withholding any identity documents of foreign workers, including residential permits or national passports. Temporary possession of such items would only be permitted if there were strong reasons, such as arranging health check-ups or lodging application documents for migrant workers.

First-time offenders would face a fine of between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000, while repeated offenders – convicted four times or more of the same charge – would have to shut down their business operation for up to a year. Employers might also be banned from hiring foreign workers in the future.

Employers or employment agents convicted of serious offenses against workers, such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, human trafficking, offenses that infringe on a person’s freedom, grievous bodily harm or murder, individuals could be fined between NT$300,000 and NT$1.5 million, and their business license could be withdrawn.

Employers convicted of these criminal offenses would not be allowed to hire foreign workers for up to five years – their hiring permit would be immediately scrapped. Serious repeat offenders would permanently prohibited from hiring workers in the future.

Employment agencies would also be responsible for reporting suspected abusive employers – within 24 hours – to police, immigration officials or any concerned government authorities. Agencies that failed in do so would be fined NT$60,000 to NT$300,000 and would have to shut their businesses for up to a year.

The ministry also wants a major increase in the fines for those convicted of operating illegal employment agencies – from NT$100,000 to NT$500,000. A further fine of NT$300,000 to NT$1.5 million could be imposed, depending on the number of illegal workers. Repeat offenders would face up to five years in prison, or a fine up to NT$2.4 million.

Lastly, employers who hire runaway workers would be fined from NT$150,000 to NT$750,000, depending on the number of illegal workers involved.